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The US and European Patent Offices have moved a step closer to a universal patent system by officially publishing their new Cooperative Patent Classification system.

Released today in draft form, the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system comes into effect from 1 January 2013. It means that both the States and Europe will classify patents in exactly the same way.

The goal of the transatlantic co-operation is to make patent offices in Europe and the States more efficient, reducing duplicate work, making sure that searches of prior art are more effective and improving access to documents from patent offices around the world.

The EU and US collaborated before on patent classification - both used the International Patent Classification (IPC) as overseen by the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) - but the new system is much more detailed, allowing for full and complete integration.

President of the European Patent Office (EPO) Benoît Battistelli said that the co-operation would make for big efficiency savings:

In less than two years, we have finalised and published a joint scheme incorporating the best classification practices of both offices, which will align our patent procedures more closely and deliver major efficiency gains. In the process, the CPC will be a stepping stone towards a more general harmonisation of the world's patent systems.

The huge international lawsuits over patents in the technology sector has shone a light on the patent system - and increased the demand for an efficient, consistent global patent system.

The CPC is based on the IPC so it can be cross-referenced with international patent libraries. It will adopt the same system of sections A through H with a separate section Y dedicated to technology patents. ®

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